Thursday, 30 June 2016

The EU Referendum: what are the impacts for our clients?

Currency markets have attracted headlines - BUT - £/EUR is still trading 4% above the 9 year average and is ‘only’ back to where it was at the beginning of last year. So not all doom & gloom. It is reasonable to expect significant market and currency volatility, until markets are confident they understand what lies ahead for the UK economy.

Property - a Brexit is unlikely to impact upon the right of a UK national to own property in France, as any other nationality can already enjoy this same right today, including non EU-countries such as the many Canadian, Australian, American or other nationality buyers of French property via Allez-Français.

The main question mark is how property inheritance and taxation rules would apply. The rights of British citizens to reside in France would depend on what form of exit is implemented. If the UK opts for option one, to be an EEA member as Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein are, UK nationals would still be entitled to live and work in the EU, with certain restrictions to some rights and social benefits.

Two separate credit rating agencies have downgraded the UK’s credit rating since the news of the UK voting to leave the EU. The impact of BREXIT is likely to be stronger for the UK than here in France. The fracture of Europe is now a real possibility as other nations, including France press for their own referendum for a FREXIT. (They are even more Euro sceptical than the UK according to polls).

What has surprised us immediately post the vote, is quite how determined many UK clients are now, "more than ever" to quit the UK and move across the Channel.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Property Reconnaissance, a Drivers Guide

A guest blog by David Griffiths (

The task of purchasing a property abroad is as exciting as it can be onerous but with some decent planning, a sensible and organised agent to help with the acquisition and a spirit of adventure it needn’t be quite so imposing.

South West France has long been an attractive proposition for us Brits. It’s near enough to allow visits back home or to have friends and family over for a long weekend and just far enough away to guarantee long sunny days and a convivial, relaxed atmosphere. The South Western areas of France stretching from Poitou-Charentes to the north, through The Dordogne and Lot Valleys and into the rural depths of Gascony provide some of the most desirable places to live. Great weather, astounding scenery, amazing food and even, so rumour has it, a decent supply of wine. It’s of little wonder that it remains such a popular destination for those of us looking for an idyllic escape.

So, how do we get there? How do we get started? How should we approach the whole and oft dreaded saga of buying a new home abroad? Well fear not, it’s not so bad with a little footwork and some decent contacts the steps to owning your dream home need not be quite so daunting. Via your agent arrange some properties to view (never be tempted to rely on online photographs alone) and jump in the car to go and see them. You may fly and hire a car perhaps but here we are going to offer a light but practical guide to travelling to and around you chosen region(s) and how to make the most of your time in some of France’s most glorious areas.

Planning the Journey

Obviously France has several key ferry ports that you can choose from depending on your location in the UK. From Roscoff and St Malo to the west of the Cherbourg Peninsula, the central ports of Ouistreham (Caen), Le Havre and Dieppe and the more easterly Boulougne, Calais and Dunkirk. Cherbourg is also available but does involve a slightly unnecessary additional time in the car but if you are a poor sailor and heading out from Portsmouth it is an option.

Once you have decided on your port think about the time you have available for your visit and what kind of journey you’d prefer. There are usually two distinct types of travellers; the “head down, bash on” types who hammer down the autoroutes in one fell swoop and the more relaxed “ambling brigade” who enjoy a few stops along the way to sample the sights, sounds and let’s face it, cuisine of what’s on offer. You’ll know which one you are and how much time you have so plan any stopovers accordingly. If you’ve already had a lengthy drive to the English Channel then you may well prefer to have a quick pit stop in the Pas de Calais or inland Normandy before heading further south for example.

For the property viewings locate a sensible place to use as base camp during your time there, or if a little more widespread, two or three different towns might be a good idea. Speak with your agent for any local expertise and suggestions if you are unsure.

The Route to the South West

French roads are generally great, free moving (away from the main Cities anyway), well maintained and well signposted. The key autoroutes for travelling down are the A28 and the A10. The A28 runs from North East France to Tours (situated just to the north of Poitou-Charentes) and from there you pick up the A10 which takes you down towards Bordeaux and Gascony.

For those who may arrive in Roscoff and St Malo you will want to head onto the E3 towards Rennes before taking the A83 which links to the A10.

Now clearly there are many other routes available but there is not scope to cover them all here. However as a starting point these routes can help form a useful skeleton upon which you can flesh out your plans once you have the details of your exact itinerary.

Driving Tips

Remember that there several statutory requirements that you need to comply with when driving in France.

  • Headlight Converters
  • Hi-Viz Vest (One for each person in the car)
  • GB car sticker (or GB Number Plate)
  • Warning Triangle
  • Spare Bulbs
  • Breathalysers*

All of these items can be purchased via this articles author, see below for details. *Breathalysers are still on the official list of required items but there is no fine levied for non-compliance, which there is with the others.

Spectacle wearers should note that is also a legal requirement in France to carry a spare pair with you when driving.

Once you arrive it’s up to you how much pleasure you can mix into your business schedule but it would be a shame not enjoy a glass of wine in La Rochelle, a fish lunch and a visit to one of the many Chateaux of the River Dordogne, a hearty rural Gascon supper or a stroll through one of the many picturesque villages that you will routinely stumble upon during your visit. It’s a great chance to get a feel for the region that you have chosen to be your new home or home away from home. Make the most of it and make the whole experience an enjoyable one rather than just a gutless slog along the autoroutes and country lanes.

Taking time to sample at first hand exactly what an area is all about should help you immeasurably in your quest for a new house. After all, the property itself may be the cornerstone of your new lifestyle but overall it’s the people, the towns, villages, countryside and all its attractions that will complete the new life that you are looking forward to. The more you embrace it the more it will embrace you, so get stuck in and sample all the delights on offer. Your experience will be far richer and rewarding if you do.

The Author

David Griffiths is the owner of several motoring related websites including the well-respected and which both specialise in driving in France related products and advice if you need further information on French driving rules.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Britain Leaves and markets drop - Global Markets are down but not all is lost

A guest blog by Adam Bobroff, Director at  Foremust Currency Group

GBP/EUR still trading 4% above the 9 year average and is ‘only’ back to where it was at the beginning of last year

The day of the referendum has finally passed and now the UK is set to leave the EU. Since the day of the vote where GBP/EUR and GBP/USD peaked at 1.3135 and 1.5006 respectively, rates have plummeted around 10% to 1.1988 and 1.3195 – a 31 year low for GBP/USD.

GBP/EUR 1 week exchange rate graph

GBP/USD 1 week exchange rate graph

Of course if you have been thinking of purchasing a property overseas, this sort of news probably isn’t what you were hoping for. However, with the resignation of David Cameron, it will have to be his successor that bites the bullet and pulls the UK out of the EU. Will anyone do this? Probably, but if there is any slight inkling that we may end up staying, rates are sure to start rising again.

If all does go to plan for Boris and Co. proceedings of our departure from the EU should start within the next few months. In that period of time, markets will be extremely volatile depending on different events occurring and what influential bodies say. Once Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty is invoked, there will be no turning back for the UK, unless all 27 EU countries agrees we can. Once this happens, it is likely that the £ will continue losing ground unless agreements are made that will allow a free flow of trade with the EU.
Effects Of Brexit

Two separate credit rating agencies have downgraded the UK’s credit rating since the news of the UK voting to leave the EU. S&P have downgraded the economy from AAA to AA.

Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech stating his distress that the public had voted to leave the EU. He stated “The British people have voted to leave the European Union. It was not the result I wanted – nor the outcome that I believed is best for the country I love. But there can be no doubt about the result.”

Get In Touch

For anyone either buying or selling sterling, it is key to get in contact with one of our brokers here at Foremost Currency Group, who will be able to create a tailored strategy for you to either mitigate or take advantage of such circumstances. To get in contact and find out how we might be of help, give me a call on 01442 892 073.   Needless to say today, through-out the next weeks and months there will be talks of moving forward with the British exit from the EU. As previously discussed these talks are highly likely to cause volatility in all sterling crosses.

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Brexit Vote

Quite an eventful week – described my many as seismic. I think that may people are shell-shocked and there are a lot of emotions running high at present.

But what happens now? For those people who were planning to buy in France, what do they do?

Some clients are adopting a “wait & see” approach, whilst some are saying their plans remain in place, (some have even advised the leave decision has spurred them on even more to make the move). In fact, our 1st post BREXIT sale has just been agreed, to UK buyers who voted “Leave”!

A big factor for many is of course the £. The headlines on Friday were all about the massive losses, but most commentators failed to factor in the significant rise in the £ during the previous days when a remain vote looked probable. The truth of the matter is that the £ is trading at a higher level, even post BREXIT than it did throughout 2011, 2012, 2013, & 2014. So, historically not bad. (See chart below).

Nothing much will change on this side of the Channel relating to house purchase. In fact, the change and uncertainty for me is most likely on the other side of the channel in the UK, where there is going to be significant pressure on politics, services, taxation etc where reform is clearly now essential.

An interesting comment over the weekend came from another client, who said, “the referendum result has confirmed for me that I will be moving to France sooner rather than later”.

I also see that there is growing support for another referendum! There is even talk that because the actual voting figure for BREXIT was only 37% of those entitled to vote, that the intention of the people may not be implemented by the Government, plus talk of Nicola Sturgeon blocking UK’s departure…….

Crazy times.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

On my Soapbox for a moment

The EU Referendum

Whilst the EU have made some significant achievements, I am not a believer in the EU as I feel it has become an all-consuming, inefficient, over bearing waste of money and is a far cry from the ‘vanilla’ version that we voted into in 1973. I think that the EUs original principal of a common market to help cross border trade and the movement of people was sensible BUT they should have left it with the ECU (European currency Unit) rather than creating the Euro. The single currency limits an economies ability to control themselves and the addition of poor performing member states has created a system that is similar to the principal of sub-prime mortgages. If you bundle all the rubbish together and put in some good stuff, then the overall package appears at face value to be more appealing. The reality is that this is a house of cards with only 1 potential outcome unless you change the structure before it is too late. Total economic unity and further integration cannot be the future as differing economies have differing requirements and therefore this 3 legged race is not a recipe for success. An inability to manage ones economy through interest rates, currency changes and independent legislation hinder many and helps very few and the fact is that the Eurozone is the worst performing growth continent other than Antarctica! Governments around the world have had to make budget cuts by up to 40% following the recession and yet Brussels increased its budget.


Do we think we'll be better on our own starting from scratch than the collective buying power that the scale of the EU brings??? I doubt it.

The fact is no one knows what it will look like, but the one thing we can be sure of is that sterling will tank further and people don't invest in times of uncertainty. We see it in the markets over the last week (and leading up to it) and if we leave then it will only grow. It is true both in the markets and in companies. Why would I invest a company selling anything if I have no idea about what its ability to distribute is going to be and what tariffs and quotas it will be subject to? Might be ok, might not, but for any import/export company, a few years of small/ nil investment could sink it.

End of the day - Do we want to be an island in every sense and gain some misplaced idea democracy and sovereignty... For what? And then what? Yes we could have some tweaks around the edges and bicker over immigration +/- but quantifying it is almost irrelevant. It is more a political and conceptual question for me and I think we are stronger together.

Has the EC done a good job? In some things... Does it need reform? Definitely. The only way to do this is to join with the French, Germans and Dutch and lobby collectively for reform.

Perhaps Britain may leave as the EU changes shape in the future but I don’t think that now is the time to make such a leap into the unknown.

A guest blog post by 
Adam Bobroff
The Foremost Currency Group

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Portfolio snapshot - June 2016

In total we have 277 properties for sale.

2/3 of the houses are priced between 200,000 and 500,000. There is an increasing number of higher end properties, and almost 1 out of 2 are priced above 300,000.

Band Number %
below 100k 8 3
100-200k 72 26
200-300k 57 21
500-1mk 61 22
1mk plus 15 5

The properties are principally focused on 3 departments, the Dordogne, the Deux Sèvres & the Charente, accounting for 57% of the portfolio.

In recent months, we have broadened the portfolio with a selection of ski properties, (more available), some in the Pyrénées, and some on the Mediterranean coast. These are generally at the higher end of the market.

Department Number %
Dordogne 68 25
Deux Sevres 52 19
Charente 35 13
Haute Vienne 18 6
Correze 16 6
Lot 14

One of our current featured properties and a good example of the properties we sell the most

A 4-bed Gascon farmhouse with gardens and pool 325,000€

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Tax: Getting your affairs in order

As an expatriate you may think that UK inheritance will not affect you.

However, it is where you are domiciled that determines whether you are liable, not where you are resident. Even after living abroad for many years, you could still be seen as a British domicile in the eyes of HMRC and therefore fully liable for UK inheritance tax.

We work with a highly reputable firm of International tax advisers, and they are perfectly placed to provide integrated, seamless advice on how best to limit tax in France on investment income and gains, pensions, wealth and inheritances. They also advise on the complex subject of tax residency, and provide an invaluable ‘domicile determination service’.

Their tax planning advice is of particular value at three stages...

1. Before leaving the UK to move abroad

2. During the period of residency abroad, because of frequent tax changes

3. For some clients, prior to their return to the UK

To make sure your legacy goes to the right place it is crucial to understand the ins and outs of the rules in both the UK and your country of residence.

So if you want to make sure that you are paying the lowest tax rates in France, and have maximised your pension arrangements using vehicles such as QROPS, they are the people to speak to.

For further information please contact Peter